2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS review: Heck yeah, the V8's back
Porsche makes some of the world's finest six-cylinder engines, but there's just no substitute for the sound and fury of a bangin' V8. That's why I'm stoked about the 2021 Cayenne GTS, which ditches its old V6 for one hell of a twin-turbo V8. Does it change the overall GTS package? Not really and that's OK. The V8 simply adds a whole lot of character, enhancing the appeal of this excellent performance SUV.
The GTS' 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is the same one you'll find in the rootin'-tootin' Cayenne Turbo, detuned in this application to produce 453 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 457 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm. Those are increases of 13 hp and 15 lb-ft compared to the old GTS' V6, but this minor bump in power doesn't tell the whole story.
Instead, consider the hearty roar of the V8 upon startup that settles into a bassy burble. The standard sport exhaust amplifies this robust soundtrack and digging into the throttle is like an on/off switch for the V8's loud-and-proud song. Use launch control -- part of the $1,130 Sport Chrono package -- and the Cayenne GTS will scoot to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds on its way to a 168-mph top speed. That's 0.6 seconds quicker than the old GTS' acceleration time, as well as a 5-mph v-max increase, if that's a bragging right you care about. As with every Cayenne, all-wheel drive is standard, as is a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. If you were hoping the V8 would also mark the return of the Cayenne's manual transmission, I'm afraid you're SOL.
In addition to the V8 and sport exhaust, the Cayenne GTS has a standard adaptive air suspension with a 30-millimeter lower ride height and Porsche's torque-vectoring tech. On top of those, my Carmine Red test car has a few other worthwhile upgrades, including rear-axle steering ($1,620) and Porsche's Dynamic Chassis Control dampers ($3,590).
Every Cayenne is a peach to drive, but the GTS is definitely the best of the bunch. The steering is light and direct and far more communicative than other sporty SUVs, and with the extra rear-axle assist, the GTS is far more adept to canyon carving than you might expect. The adaptive chassis tech keeps the Cayenne hunkered down and planted in tight corners, with next to no body roll in its Sport and Sport Plus drive modes. You can push this Cayenne like you would a 911 and it's more than happy to play along.
Switch over to Comfort, however, and the ride is downright plush, even with 21-inch wheels and summer tires. Highway expansion joints are comfortably dispatched and the GTS rides with luxurious solidity. This SUV has a great dynamic breadth, able to provide proper comfort and compliance when you're toddling around town but transform into an absolute hoot and a half when the road gets twisty. Compared to other sporty SUVs, the Cayenne GTS is better on both ends of this on-road spectrum.
Porsche offers a number of driver-assistance technologies that make life a little easier, though as usual, most of the good stuff costs extra. My Cayenne GTS tester rings up for $130,250 including $1,350 for destination, but lacks lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Even the surround-view camera system accounts for $1,200 of that as-tested price. On the other hand, this a-la-carte optioning system means you aren't paying for technologies you'll never use that are bundled into other options packages. Still, the fact that a six-figure luxury SUV doesn't have some of these features standard is pretty absurd.
The only other drawback, to no one's surprise, is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2021 Cayenne GTS at 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, and if you drive this SUV the way it's meant to be driven, you'll routinely see numbers in the low-to-mid teens. If efficiency is a priority, maybe the Cayenne E-Hybrid is more your jam.
A standard Sport Design package is part of the Cayenne GTS treatment, with 21-inch black wheels, unique bumpers, adaptive LED lighting and aluminum interior trim. Porsche isn't one to restrict personalization possibilities, of course, so feel free to peruse the 14 available 21- and 22-inch wheel options, as well as the 11 exterior colors and 11 interior schemes. Want a custom color? Feel free to pick from Porsche's extensive paint catalog -- for a $11,430 upcharge, natch.
Creature comforts and onboard tech match what you get in other Cayennes, with the Porsche Communication Management infotainment software housed in a crisp and responsive 12.3-inch touchscreen. No, this isn't the updated PCM that's slowly making its way into new Porsches, so that means Android Auto still isn't supported. Apple CarPlay is, thank goodness, and wirelessly at that.
The Cayenne's sport seats offer lots of support and are super comfy for longer drives and a $2,970 GTS interior package adds contrast stitching and seat belts in either Chalk or Carmine Red. Driver and passenger won't complain about a lack of head- or legroom, though the back seat isn't as capacious as other sporty luxury SUVs. Ditto the cargo hold which, with a maximum of 60.3 cubic feet of space, falls behind some of the Cayenne's competitors.
If you're far more concerned with function over form, Porsche offers the Cayenne GTS in fashionable crossover-coupe form, with a faster roofline and less interior space -- and a $2,700 price hike. Opting for the Cayenne GTS Coupe unlocks the totally rad houndstooth seat fabric option, though it requires the addition of a $8,670 Lightweight Sport package, which adds carbon fiber interior trim, a carbon fiber roof, 22-inch wheels and center-mounted exhaust. I freaking love those houndstooth seats, but damn, that's a whole lot of money.
No matter how you slice it, the Cayenne GTS isn't exactly a cheap proposition, starting at $110,350 including $1,350 for destination. You'll pay slightly less for a 600-hp BMW X5 M , though a 603-hp Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S actually costs more. Those performance SUVs are certainly better equipped to battle a Cayenne Turbo, though the GTS matches them in price. And even though the Bimmer and Merc throw down bigger outputs and quicker acceleration times, the Cayenne is both more comfortable and more rewarding to drive.
Moreover, the GTS stands out as the real star of the Cayenne lineup, with arguably the best balance of performance and comfort. Plus, it's $20,900 cheaper than a Cayenne Turbo while offering the same excitement and character that only comes from a sweet V8 engine.